Recent IT outages such as the DBS ATM shutdown and United Airlines Web site erroneously selling US$20 tickets are clear evidence of the serious consequences that software failures can bring along, said Ritendra Banerjee, senior vice president of Maveric Systems, a company that performs software testing.
In a phone interview with ZDNet Asia, Banerjee explained that an increasing number of companies are putting in the extra investment for such testing. Reasons range from preventing large-scale failures to meeting compliance, to simply ensuring that the large investments in technology and software can function and generate returns for the business.
"Lapses can have serious impact on businesses, and these are the companies that rely on thousands of applications to monetize the product for them," he said.
In a recent survey commissioned by the firm, 75 percent of IT executives in Indonesia said software testing plays a "very important" role in their businesses, while the rest said it was "important".
40 percent felt that budget-related issues were the main constraints to software testing, while 20 percent cited the inability to demonstrate return on investment (ROI).
Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are three ASEAN countries that India-based Maveric is currently focusing on, with operations started just one-and-half years ago. Banerjee observed that as more global companies look to Asia to expand their operations, there is huge potential in the region.
Maveric counts banking giants like BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered and hardware vendors like HP as its clients.
"Banks usually have 150 or more platforms running concurrently, and we come in to ensure these systems can function smoothly," Banerjee said.
He explained that depending on the system or maturity of the client, this could take between 20 and 100 people to perform the test. For new software, it may even require up to one calendar year for the entire process to be completed, and this often consumes up to one-third the time of the program rollout, said Banerjee.
"Banks usually upgrade their software on a three- to four-year cycle. Suppose we take up to a year to perform a test, it doesn't mean the client gets to use the software for only two to three years. Often, we will work with the bank to launch the software at the same time and continue to tweak the functions to ensure that operability remains stable," Banerjee explained.
The testing criterion typically includes functions to "keep the lights on" and ensure databases run normally.
The IT veteran said that while independent software testing is slowly taking off, companies still need to undergo a change in mindset when it comes to going beyond traditionally-performed in-house testing. He revealed that increasingly more firms are willing to invest between 10 and 15 percent extra on top of the initial software investment, just to ensure operability and to reach international compliance standards.
"These include pharmaceutical companies, and increasingly, we're seeing more telco companies doing so," he added.
Banerjee said most companies that engage in software testing in Asia do so mainly for compliance issues, and it is fortunate the region has not had any large-scale software failure incidents.
In the same survey, it was also estimated that the global software testing market will hit US$56 billion by 2013, with nearly 30,000 professionals needed.
Banerjee said the company is working with an institute in India to train such talents, and has recently entered into partnership with the Malaysia University of Science and Technology to train people to carry out testing both on the R&D and business functions.